I feel that I don’t know enough about my family background. There are huge gaps in relational information, and that bothers me. If I ask my aunt, I’m sure she’d be happy to fill in the gaps with names, dates, etc. But that’s not the kind of background I mean: I am missing the conversations about family dynamics, secrets, emotional information, memories, family holidays, and personalities. I am a relational, experiential learner and so have a deep yearning to know my ancestors through the stories that my parents are reluctant to share with me.
I am not really sure why that is, but I feel that I need to respect their desire to have good boundaries, to have the right not to share old or painful memories if that is what they so choose. So, so – I am at a loss. Do I ask my extended family (second cousins, aunts and uncles who have first-hand experiences and memories to offer), or do I leave it alone? What do I have to gain through by knowing? What do I have to lose?
There is a Southern saying that is something like, “leave themselves to themselves.” It means leave the past in the past. Let the ghosts take care of their own.
But I also believe in the juxtaposition of nature vs. nurture. When I see mannerisms in my children, is that inborn behavior? Or taught? Or a mixture of the two? Does it even matter? Should every mannerism or beneficial (or detrimental) attribute of myself, my husband, my children, be seen as a unique commentary of life experience and so be dealt with on a case-by-case basis?
I really doubt that our family history is as scandalous (or as interesting) as that of the characters in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” But if I never ask, how will I know? And if I never ask, will this itch to know my ancestors’ histories, backgrounds and stories just go away? And if it is that interesting – or that scandalous – do I really WANT to know?
Not knowing – and not pushing for the information – makes it feel as if our family just – BEGAN – the minute my parents got married. And with all four grandparents gone, maybe the secondhand stories of second cousins and aunts and uncles are better than nothing. My history has a centuries-long blank space where the stories should be. I’m pretty sure I’m not really okay with that. But not sure what I should do about it.
What do YOU think?